No. 156. — Report of Col. Thomas W. Egan, Fortieth New York Infantry.
SULPHUR SPRINGS, VA.,
August 1, 1863.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following account of the part taken by the Fortieth Regiment New York Volunteers in the battle of Gettysburg, Pa.:
On the morning of July 2, after a prolonged and tedious march of many days, my command, following the brigade, moved from Emmitsburg, Md., up the pike leading to Gettysburg, Pa., to unite with the remainder of the division, which had been pushed ahead the night previous. Arriving within about 2 miles of Gettysburg, moved to the right, and formed line of battle with the brigade in a wood of oaks and among rocks, about half a mile from the Emmitsburg road, and facing toward it.
Resting here a few hours, marched by the flank to the left-and front across an open field about 200 yards into another woods, taking position in line of battle as before, still facing the Emmitsburg road, which was at this time held by the enemy.
At this point we were subjected to an enfilading fire from the enemy’s batteries, which compelled a change of position. Moving across a road leading from the Emmitsburg road to the Baltimore pike, we again formed line of battle, when I was moved, by order of Colonel de Trobriand, with the rest of the brigade, marching in line of battle, about 100 yards to the left and front, to the support of a battery which was stationed near a peach orchard.
At about 4 o’clock were relieved by a portion of the Fifth Corps, when I was ordered by Major-General Birney to move by the left flank through the woods across a field of wheat, in front of Captain Winslow’s battery, to a position pointed out to me by Capt. J. C. Briscoe, in a ravine bounded on the left by high hills and upon the right by a gentle ridge.
The enemy had at this time partly succeeded in flanking the Second Brigade upon my right by a movement upon their left. Captain Smith’s (Fourth New York) Battery was stationed upon the ridge at my right, and was in a very perilous situation. The enemy having already captured two of his pieces, he called upon me in beseeching terms to save his battery. I then moved in line of battle, with my right connecting with the Second Brigade regiments, which were on the right of the battery, under a terrific fire of the enemy’s infantry, who were strongly disposed behind the natural defenses of rocks and ridges, encountering also a destructive fire from his artillery. I immediately ordered my men to charge, when with great alacrity they pushed forward at a double-quick, crossing a marsh up to their knees in mud and water.
The enemy fell back upon my advance, but it was attended with no particular advantage to ourselves, for their new position was very much stronger than the first. All attempts to dislodge them from the second line proving unsuccessful, and discovering that they had gained ground upon my right, which threatened a flank movement, the regiments on my right having fallen to the rear and exposed us to a cross-fire, I was compelled to fall back, rallying my men upon the ridge over which I passed.
In moving in, my command suffered terribly, and here I have to regret the loss of one of my bravest and best officers, Lieut. William H. H. Johnson, who was acting adjutant. While nobly and gallantly urging on the men, he was killed instantly by a Minie ball. I sustained also the loss of many of my bravest and most faithful men, who nobly fell in the performance of their sacred duty, facing the enemy of our country.
It becomes my painful duty also to record the loss by wounds of many of my best officers and most worthy men. Among the number was the gallant and brave Lieut. Col. Augustus J. Warner, who received a severe wound in the leg while rendering me the most valuable assistance. Capt. M. M. Cannon and Lieuts. W. H. Gilder and R. M. Boody also received severe wounds while greatly distinguishing themselves at their post of duty.
An overpowering force of the enemy again compelled us to fall back, when I again rallied the scattered remnant of my command, and made a stand near the position occupied by Captain Winslow’s battery, when I received orders from Capt. J. C. Briscoe to move my command back to join the brigade, but I was not able to find the brigade, when I was ordered to bivouac for the night in rear of the position first occupied before the battle.
Early upon the following morning, moved to the position first occupied before the battle, to the support of the Fifth Corps, where we remained until the middle of the afternoon, when I received orders to move by the flank, following the brigade, to the right and rear, to the support of the batteries placed in position in an open field, in anticipation of a concentrated movement of the enemy upon this point. Here I sustained the loss of several men from the terrific fire of the enemy’s batteries.
We remained in this position until night, when I received orders from Colonel de Trobriand to move my regiment by the flank to the front for picket duty. I established my line, in pursuance of orders, about 200 yards from the Emmitsburg road and parallel with it.
Early next morning was relieved, it being ascertained that the enemy had evacuated, and rejoined the brigade about 400 yards to the rear, when I was again moved with the brigade back to the position occupied in the afternoon of the previous day. Here bivouacked for the night.
The next morning my command was moved with the brigade to the woods first occupied on the morning of the 2d instant, to await orders to follow up the fleeing enemy.
In concluding this report, it becomes my duty, as well as pleasure, to make the highest mention of Capt. B. M. Piatt, assistant adjutant-general, Third Brigade. Too much cannot be said of this brave and gallant officer. Always cool under the most trying circumstances, by his courage and example he afforded services that were of infinite value in restoring order to my command. When his horse was shot under him, he still remained in the van, always by my side, greatly distinguishing himself by noble conduct. The highest praise is also due to Capt. J. C. Briscoe for the valuable services he rendered at a time when most required.
Among the officers of my command who escaped injury, it is difficult to select the most deserving; each nobly performed his duty to my entire satisfaction.
The color guard, under Sergt. Andrew J. Wadleigh, well sustained the former reputation of that corps. They were foremost in the advance, and raised the noble ensign defiantly.
Respectfully submitting the above, I am, captain, your obedient servant,
T. W. EGAN,
Colonel Fortieth New York Volunteers.
Capt. BEN. M. PIATT,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Brigade.
from Official Records, Series 1, Volume 27, Part 1